How to Begin Living On Purpose

A few months ago, I spoke at a church in Pensacola Florida with my dear friend and fellow Love Doer Lisa Long.

I wrote about it here and if you have 30 minutes you can listen to what the two of us had to say, about living a life of love: Who it’s about, why it matters and how to do it. Lisa and I are hardly experts, but we agree that this process of becoming who God intended, is rich and diverting, and well worth the trip.

First City Church

Last Sunday, First City baptized 29 people, and it was beautiful.

Now, I recognize many of you reading are skeptical by nature, leery of overt Christian symbolism and/or mad at the church, but indulge me, will you? Spend seven minutes and watch this video, because friends, this is what love looks like soaking wet.

Specifically, watch for:

  • The expressions as people come out of the water.
  • Pastor Rick’s expression as he dunks some (but not all) of them.
  • The totally uninhibited clinging bro hugs.
  • Who is doing the dunking – Pastor, Mom, Youth Pastor, Friend, Brother, Community.
  • The naked vulnerability, the relief.

 

The “Church” and its goofy humans have messed the world up so thoroughly for so long, it’s easy to level that charge at Jesus, thereby ignoring the accountability following him requires. But what we miss when we do that, what I missed for years, is the love.

The Love of God. That big sky love, with its incomprehensible vastness. The Love that invades and swallows us, eventually moving us like wind across the plains, sweeping us over prairie grass or oceans into places we can’t imagine.

Prairie

When we finally submit to Jesus, we aren’t granted ease, safety or perfection, but rather love and a purpose in his very big design. Twenty nine people at First City Church signed up for that on Sunday and I think it shows on their faces.

Good on you FCC!

Three Lessons On Love From Pensacola

First City Church

As some of you know, I was asked to speak at First City Church in Pensacola, Florida last weekend with my friend Lisa Long (read what others have to say about her here.)

I don’t know if you have ever preached a sermon, from an actual pulpit, with people in pews staring expectantly at you, but I can tell you this:

I have strapped a parachute to my back, run down the side of a mountain and jumped off it, and that was nothing compared to preaching. You can listen to the whole sermon here but if you don’t have time, here are three things I learned:

This is them!

This is them!

1. Your heart is more important than my opinion. All kinds of people go to First City – gay people, wealthy people, drug addicts and people with checkered pasts who’ve wandered back after years away. Pastor Rick Hazelip and his team embody what Bob Goff said again and again at the Love Does Stuff Conference  – “You are not just invited here, you are welcome.”

So when tackling hard things with people who are groping around for Jesus, Pastor Rick’s framework is this:

Your heart is more important than my opinion. So I’m going to protect it while we talk about this. For with the measure I deal out to you, it will be measured back to me. I am not your judge, I am your witness to a life that is available in Jesus Christ.

This church hums with the love and mercy of God.

2. It’s not about me. While I was busy peeing my pants with fear during worship, the Lord reminded me of Zechariah 4:6. How’s that for obscure? See what a scholar I am? Wrong. It was written on the back of the SCRUBS Medical Mission t-shirts all of us wore every day in Zambia.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

Oh yah, I thought, I just have to get up there, open my mouth and let him fill it. I walked up to that pulpit with no pee on my dress.

3. If you’re preaching about Jesus, while clinging to his feet, something is going to land. I prayed hard ahead of time for the exact people at First City who needed to hear what I planned to say.

  • How mad I was at the church.
  • How, as a result, I tried to make my life work without Jesus, and the myriad ways that failed.
  • How I finally took the tatters of my faith and the chip on my shoulder and laid them at Jesus’ feet.

They came up to me afterward one by one and said,

“You were talking to me today.”

“I’ve been out of church for ten years, but I’ve been at First City a month. I love it.”

“I’m going home to read my Bible.”

Those words are almost more than I can take. Thank you First City for having me and teaching me.

This is What Love Does – Oklahoma.

Before I started paying real attention to Jesus, I didn’t know Christians like Jeff Bethke existed. But this little video, performed by Bethke, a Jesus loving, scholar-poet, went up last year and now has nearly 25 million views.

Maybe there’s something to it.

I avoided Jesus for ages because I too have a problem with the Crusades and I don’t believe any US political party or denomination has a corner on Jesus. In fact, when I actually read the gospels, I snorted at the irony.

It was first-century religious and political leaders who killed Jesus, and he warned us to watch out for them. That is not my opinion, it’s in all four gospels.

I met Bethke at the Love Does Stuff conference. He’s 23. He’s never been to seminary but he’s a reader. After reading the gospel like he meant it, he read Bonhoffer, Tozier, Keller, Chan and Goff, authors who have rejected the idea of Jesus + __________.

It’s just Jesus period.

When asked by a lawyer what the greatest commands were, Jesus gave only two: Love God. Love others. And frankly, in tornado-wrecked Oklahoma today, we are actually doing a rather good job of that.

This nation, the one supposedly “gridlocked by political and religious division” is praying together in our messy melting pot ways. We are weeping for Oklahoma and pulling strangers from the rubble. That is what Jesus wants. That is what love does.

So if that’s who we are in crisis, why aren’t we that in calm? Why do we need disasters to eclipse our quotidian spitefulness?

Because we’ve bought into the same old religious/political lie that killed Jesus. We are separate, we are different, so we must be afraid.

But if Oklahoma proves anything it’s that we’re not separate. We are one, but we’ve got to pull each other out of the rubble – even people we don’t like. As Bob Goff said over the weekend,

“He (God) is going to send all sorts of people with different life orientations your way. Does that change one thing about what Jesus said?”

Love God. Love others. Period.